The Best DVDs of 2010

As the medium continues to struggle with significance in the steady "streaming" of the 21st Century, here are PopMatters' picks for the best the format(s) have to offer.

DVD: Mystery Team

Film: Mystery Team

Director: Dan Eckman

Cast: Donald Glover, DC Pierson, Dominic Dierkes, Aubrey Plaza, Matt Walsh, Bobby Moynihan


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List number: 35

Display Width: 200Mystery Team

In sketch group Derrick Comedy’s first feature film, three guys (DC Pierson, Dominic Dierkes, and Donald Glover of NBC’s Community) started an Encyclopedia Brown-style detective agency as children, and now they’re teenagers and still at it. Same dorky haircuts and clothes, same nonsense kid mysteries. A girl retains them to find her parents’ murderer: naturally they accept, and hi-jinx ensue. Scored by Glover, and featuring supporting actors like Bobby Moynihan, Aubrey Plaza, Ellie Kemper, Kevin Brown, John Lutz, and Matt Walsh, the movie is knock-you-over, line-after-line hilarious, but at its core it is a coming-of-age story with real heart. The DVD includes an extra 94 minutes of laughs on an audio commentary, a deleted scenes montage that reads like a gag reel and a few other bonuses. This is the kind of movie you buy and show over and over for every new friend that walks in the door. Jenn Misko


DVD: Ian McKellen: Acting Shakespeare

TV Show: Ian McKellen: Acting Shakespeare

Cast: Ian McKellen

Network: PBS



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List number: 34

Display Width: 200Ian McKellen: Acting Shakespeare

It is the sort of show that is often lazily characterized as ‘defying description’. Like most works that ‘defy description’, Acting Shakespeare in fact inspires a slew of descriptions: what it defies is a reductive definition. This is ‘An Evening with Ian McKellen’; it is one actor’s autobiography; it is a brief history of Shakespeare’s working life, and a longer history of the life of his work; it is a greatest hits set of Shakespearean speeches; and it is as fine a lesson in acting as is available for home viewing. We are so accustomed to home viewing now involving the sight CGI spectacles seen on high definition televisions the size of small cinema screens, their soundtracks exploding around us at volumes Ozzy Osbourne would think excessive, that to put on a DVD and watch a major league movie star stand alone, in an unremarkable blue-grey shirt and greyish slacks, on an all but bare stage, is, at first, peculiar and jarring. It takes only minutes, though, to become captivated by this singular figure. McKellen accepts the true challenge of Shakespearean acting: to perform the roles as Burbage would have performed them in their first runs, without special effects or scenery, with only the audience and the ‘wooden O’. In so doing, he extends to us the true challenge of appreciating Shakespeare: not to sit as passive spectators, but to work our imaginations around the words we hear, to participate in the performances we are experiencing, and so become a true audience. Scott Jordan Harris


DVD: The Red Riding Trilogy (Blu-ray)

Film: In the Year of Our Lord 1974, In the Year of Our Lord 1980, In the Year of Our Lord 1983

Director: Julian Jarrold, James Marsh, Anand Tucker

Cast: Mark Addy, Sean Bean, Jim Carter, Warren Clarke, Paddy Considine, Shaun Dooley, Gerard Kearns, Andrew Garfield, Rebecca Hall


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Display Width: 200 The Red Riding Trilogy (Blu-ray)
IFC Films

The three made for British TV films that make up The Red Riding Trilogy -- In the Year of Our Lord 1974, In the Year of Our Lord 1980, and In the Year of Our Lord 1983 -- argue for their place as true awe-inspiring works of revisionist genius. Certainly, we have seen the set-up before -- sleepy little burg, outrageous horror along the fringes, the tenuous links to people of importance and legitimate authority, the able antihero (or in this case, antiheroes) struggling to come up with clues, connections, and conclusions. It’s the typical police procedural path. But like the brilliant Robbie Coltrane vehicle Cracker from the ‘90s, the three different directors in charge of realizing these stories reset the bar so high that it’s impossible to imagine anyone reaching its ridiculously satisfying heights. Bill Gibron


DVD: Up in the Air

Film: Up in the Air

Director: Jason Reitman

Cast: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman, Danny McBride


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List number: 32

Display Width: 200Up in the Air

Up in the Air captures the zeitgeist of the American crash years. As cutthroat capitalism discards people and destroys communities, every human relationship is fraught with uncertainty. George Clooney is Ryan Bingham, a “termination agent” -- a hired gun who fires employees of downsizing companies. Bingham is a corporate gypsy, flying from town to town, day after day. He's a man without roots; a bare apartment is his home. With no family and few friends, he embraces a philosophy of no attachments, not realizing that his loneliness is a byproduct of his vocation. When Bingham finally risks a personal relationship, he becomes vulnerable, just like the people he fires on a daily basis. In the film's final indelible image, Bingham is dwarfed by an enormous airport flight board. It's a devastating cinematic moment: Bingham is everyman, his life overwhelmed by economic forces beyond his control. An unforgettable film. John Grassi


DVD: Tokyo Story

Film: Tokyo Story

Director: Yasujiro Ozu

Cast: Chishu Ryu, Chieko Higashiyama, Setsuko Hara, Haruka Sugimura, So Yamamura, Kuniko Mikaye


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Display Width: 200Tokyo Story

Ozu is a master of the Japanese domestic environment. His direction is unshowy yet highly distinctive; he favours static shots which encourage focus on the actors and low-angle compositions, with the camera almost seated amongst his characters as an observing equal. He cultivates an atmosphere of polite intimacy and minimal drama in which he seeks and succeeds in drawing-out basic human truths. His is not the cinema of spectacle but of subtlety. Tokyo Story is resonant, insightful and superbly performed and directed. It is a justly recognised classic. The DVD edition comes with Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family (1941), a rarely seen early Ozu feature, which in many ways can be seen as a precursor to the superior Tokyo Story, thus making it an interesting comparison piece. Unlike the fairly mint main feature, it has suffered the ravages of time -- particularly with regards the quality of its sound -- but is otherwise a welcome addition. It concerns a family that, at the start of the picture, come together for a family portrait in celebration of the matriarch’s 61st birthday. Emma Simmonds


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